Panthers v. Steelers: Who to Watch on Defense

The Carolina Panthers defense has done a good job this preseason and will be looking to close it out on a high note. These are the three players fans should be watching for Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rakim Cox

With the news that the Carolina Panthers will be without defensive end Charles Johnson, the attention should turn to pass rusher Rakim Cox. The Panthers have had some issues at the defensive end position with players injured, like Johnson and Frank Alexander, and the team could be inclined to carry an extra pass rusher on the roster.

This could present an opportunity for Rakim Cox, who had an impressive first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, but has been relatively quiet since then. The past two games he has only had three quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, however those all came against the New England Patriots.

The Panthers will probably give Cox plenty of playing time with Johnson out to make an impression. It won’t be easy though as he will most see plenty of against Michael Vick, who the Steelers recently signed.

 

Adarius Glanton

The second year linebacker has struggled this preseason and will need a strong performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Pro Football Focus, he has an overall rating of -5.3 which is the fourth worst rating of any 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL this preseason.

The linebacker position is much more crowded than it was a season ago with the team adding three linebackers this offseason with Shaq Thompson, Jason Trusnik and David Mayo. The team also has a healthy A.J. Klein back this year and the spots are sure to be limited on the 53-man roster.

The Panthers are expected to keep a majority of their starters out of this last preseason game which means Glanton should have plenty of opportunity to present the coaching staff with a strong game against the Steelers.

 

T.J. Heath

The Carolina Panthers added the 27-year old cornerback after veteran Chris Houston retired the first week into training camp. Heath has bounced around the NFL for a majority of his career with time spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins since 2011.

Heath has to feel good about the fact that he made it through the first round of cuts and saw the Panthers cut Melvin White. Even though he still has a chance, he is going to need to have a strong game Thursday night against the Steelers if he wants to secure a roster spot.

It won’t necessarily be easy as he will be trying to stop Vick, who is expected plenty of playing time as he tries to learn the Steelers playbook as quickly as possible. A strong performance against a veteran quarterback like Vick will put him in great position to grab one of those final roster spots.

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